Saying farewell to a great school

In Iowa

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Years ago, when I took this columnizing gig, my wife, Katherine, and I worried we wouldn’t be able to find a school for our kids as good as the one we were leaving in Ames. It was a very well-regarded elementary not far from our neighborhood, and our older daughter, Tess, had just started kindergarten.

So we pored over test score websites and looked for any and all information we could find as we searched for houses we could afford. It all happened pretty fast, so the nagging feeling we weren’t getting it right gnawed at us.

Tess was very, very nervous for her first day at Indian Creek Elementary on the north side of Marion. And, thanks to a parental miscue, she also was very late.

But her kindergarten teacher, Kara Felber, made sure she got a warm, friendly, but not overwhelming, greeting. It was the first of countless times our kids felt welcome, valued and cared for at that elementary school.

Somehow, we got very lucky. And we’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as our younger daughter, Ella, completes fifth grade and bounds out of Indian Creek for the last time as a student.

So we’ve been attending our last outstanding Encore chorus performances and band concerts, our final fantastic student art show, put on with loads of volunteer help. We’ve been to our last book fair in a school library staffed by folks who stoked our kids’ love of books.

We survived one more Family Fun Night. OK, so it’s crowded, loud and hot, but the kids had a blast.

We won’t forget when former principal Tina Monroe used to call us, laughing out loud, just to tell us the latest crazy story Ella told her, or when Ella’s teachers made sure she got the extra reading help she needed. There’s Kitty Strauser in the front office, who knows every single kid and parent who calls.

There are the kind, friendly women in the lunch line. There’s a nurse assistant, Stephane Rosendale, who sat with our sick kids as they waited to be picked up, and a custodian who helped the one time when we didn’t quite make it to the car.

Tess will always remember when her second-grade teacher, Kelly Kretschmar, found her at recess to make sure she knew Katherine came through cancer surgery OK.

Hatching chicks, roller-skating parties and track days, we’ll miss them all. I’ve named just a few great people, but the list of those who deserve our thanks is very long.

And I know it’s just one of many amazing elementary schools. They’re the sort of schools I think about when I hear some politicians claim all teachers really care about is the size of their paychecks, and how the true value of our public schools can be reduced to an inflationary funding chart.

They should stand outside of Indian Creek on the last day of school, when teachers and staff will line up to clap for every student as they leave for the summer and, in our case, for middle school. It’s boisterous and fun and, for parents, surprisingly poignant. But never so much as the last time.

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